My Best Nightmare (An Extremely Overdramatic Rendition)

Good Lord, that’s any second now! This is actually happening?! Park the car, bumper blocking driveway, don’t care, haha, life! Run into the house. Eat the ice cream, eat it quickly, shut off the too-much-sugar, too-many-empty-calories filter. Stare blankly at the mini peanut butter cup that has fallen onto my khaki pants. Refresh the baseball trade rumors website. Refresh. Don’t comprehend the words. Refresh. Make sure to say that. Make sure to ask about this. Don’t think, don’t be dramatic, don’t romanticize the past. Refresh. Wait, he was signed by the Padres? Wow, haha! Make sure to be just the right amount of detached, exude confidence, act like you’re doing well. Don’t forget to mention…

Relax.

Taking a deep breath, I instantly begin again, because I have awoken – no time for restraint. Everything up to this moment has meant nothing. I re-read our old conversations, but I don’t get very far because my eyes are suddenly warm and blurry. I look around the room for distractions only to conveniently notice the receipt from our first liaison. Why do I keep this stuff? I check my email; at least that will be neutral. 52 new messages. Nice, the amount of weeks in a year. The latest is from Francesca’s in the Chicago suburbs: ‘We cordially invite you to celebrate another Valentine’s Day with us.’ My eyes widen for the second, third, and fourth read. Mark as spam, don’t freak out, no such thing as signs, just a coincidence, don’t overanalyze. But why are they emai…

Stop.

Look at the Dali clock. It’s funny. It’s supposed to look like it’s melting, but it just looks like an awkwardly shaped cheap plastic clock that is really hard to read. Look at the framed Dali prints. What are your thoughts on them? Have you ever taken a deep look at a single one? No, not really? Well try this time. Oh no, don’t look at them in the dramatic light. You always do that. Yes, you bought them with her, you spent a lot of time repositioning them in that crazy little underground studio with her, remember cooking there with her? remember taco night? remember when we listened to that song for the first time? remember when you worked on the puzzle for six straight hours and I…

Wait, when did you get here?

My left temple is throbbing. My fingers need a good popping. My lips are chapped. My shoelaces are way too long. But this throbbing, it’s not just in my head, it’s in my throat, in my chest. Whoa. I thought I had eliminated this knot when I left two years ago, but my stomach is apparently capable of reproducing it with the same, if not greater, intensity. Eat more ice cream and shut up. Just fo…

Whatisthat? I stiffen, dropping the spoon. The desk, the house, my whole life is shaken by a singular vibration louder than any previous vibrations in the history of the universe. What was I just thinking I forget it doesn’t matter. Pick it up! Here it is here it is here it is suspend reality live in this moment it’s actually h…

Breathe. Clear your throat.

 

“Hey. How’s it goin’?”

Removing the Quotes from “Family” and “Holiday”

I recently visited my sister and grandparents in Tampa, an extremely apprehensive feeling clouding my thoughts. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas every year, I have to fight back tears that I get because of an awareness of my family situation. Holidays used to be normal, at least as normal as they could be with a family like mine. But over the years, things changed for the worse, and the holidays are synonymous with isolation, sadness, and a longing for the past.

We used to celebrate Christmas at my grandparents’ on Christmas Eve after what seemed like the longest church service in the history of man. The night before the 24th, I would fool myself into thinking that, the earlier I fell asleep, the earlier the day would come. Of course, I would fixate on this tirelessly for 8 hours until, upon waking, I would realize I got about 30 minutes of sleep. Nonetheless, everyone could plainly see my anticipation and subsequent rapture; I would jump around like any other kid on this happy holiday with wonderful spirits and an eagerness to seize the day.

We would usually spend the next morning, Christmas morning, reading the relevant Bible passages, eating a good breakfast, and opening presents at my parents’ (mom and stepdad’s) house. Then my dad would pick me up Christmas evening and I would walk into my room at his house to find a large quantity of presents that I was always hoping would be more than the previous year (he wrapped everything, even packs of gum and Chapstick, to boost the number of presents, but he still got me a ton of things). I would then visit my cousins’ place one of the next few days, and sometimes we would visit my mom’s aunt and other family and friends.

This was the case for most of my childhood until high school, and although the family was never perfect, they got along enough to do the same thing every year without many problems. Then everything changed: besides people growing up or moving, which happens in all families, the hostilities increased to the point where Christmas as I knew it could no longer exist. I was used to spending Christmas with the same group of people in the same place on both my mom’s and dad’s side. Long story short, no one wanted to be in the same room anymore. I was the only one who talked to everyone, but it was now much harder. I would have to see each entity individually, on both sides of my family. Christmas got smaller and more depressing.

Now holidays are spent very casually, if they are spent at all. It’s like three or four people usually. My mom sometimes cries, and it has become hard for me to feign excitement because I share some of her pain. The few of us have gone out to eat at a casual restaurant a number of times in recent years. My dad is usually alone or with a girlfriend, and we usually just play some cards and eat food. I visit my grandparents and sister in Florida and enjoy seeing them, but it just isn’t the same anymore. We don’t really do much for it except share cards. It’s warm in Tampa so it doesn’t feel like winter. And there isn’t a Christmas tree or many packages anymore.

I guess this wouldn’t be as bad if I didn’t know what family feels like. But I do know that this group of people, in the past, has worked together to share warmth and happiness with each other and provide me with a sense of contentment. No one is perfect, but it is nice when everyone gets along and has a real actual holiday. The growing up part, where the young people grow old and are busier and don’t want many presents besides money or actual useful things, would be manageable if I knew the people around me had a sense of togetherness. I don’t feel like I can provide enough love and solidity by myself to cover for the nonexistent part of the family. Besides personally wanting to enjoy the holidays without having to deal with divided units, I want the people I am with to be individually happy. When I put myself in their shoes, it is impossible for me to believe they can be at ease when people they care about are not in their lives. I don’t know what that feels like, but everyone else in my family does.

I’m not trying to depress you. I’m not asking for sympathy because my holidays suck; I have some great friends who have made me feel like part of their family on numerous occasions. Really, I just feel that something must be missing from my family members’ lives, because I know it is missing from mine. I wish there was more I could do.

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I was walking along Sand Key Beach on a perfect day as my sister followed behind with her camera. The waves occasionally came up farther than I anticipated, and we both laughed when my rolled-up jeans would get soaked.

During this walk, I thought about our childhood. I thought about how much I missed my sister. I thought about the week in Tampa. We had a great chat and bonded for the first time in a while (I keep more to myself nowadays, plus we’re both busy and far away). I got to be around my nephew for an extended period of time. Holding little baby Jacob was a reminder of how important my sister is to me. I am a part of his life. I’m her brother. I’m his uncle. I haven’t seen my grandparents smile that much since I was young, and it makes me smile seeing how much love they give to the baby. My family might not work well, but this is family. A new start. The person I looked up to growing up is now a loving, happy mother. The man she is with makes her happy and is a wonderful father. I don’t get to see her as much as I would like, but I’ve never seen my sister this happy.

I guess I forgot what that feeling of family is like.

Who knows, maybe I will move to Tampa after I finish in Chicago. Maybe that’s what I have been looking for. Maybe spending more time around this part of my family is the solution to the holiday problems.

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There are plenty of things in life we all take for granted, but during this holiday season, please spend time taking in all the warmth and cheerfulness your family gives you. Even if someone gets on your nerves or asks you annoying questions about school, work, and growing up, realize that it is so much better having that person around than not. You probably haven’t seen some people in a long time; put away your phone, forget personal problems, and don’t worry about when you will get to leave. Spend time listening and talking and eating and smiling and hugging and laughing. I know I might sound like some 80-year old giving advice to his great-grandson, but this is all true. It’s so easy to forget how important these things are to you when they are, in some way or another, a regular part of your life. Even though mine haven’t been the greatest recently, I have hope for happier holidays ahead.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Girls

I’m so confused when it comes to the opposite sex.

The moment I meet a nice attractive girl, I already picture the future. I imagine us dating, having fun doing things we both enjoy, how romantic moments will be with her specifically, etc. I tell myself instantly that I like her, deep down. Without even knowing her at all, and without sharing with her anything about myself. I try to prove to her that we should be dating, when I don’t even know if I like her. Basically, I develop crushes instantaneously, and everything after that is confirmation bias. I think rationally about how silly or untrue most of them are part of the time, but the irrational other side of me usually overrides that voice.  It takes me way too long to realize how much I really do or don’t like someone, and I still haven’t totally figured that out.

I am so involved in the pursuit of getting a cool girl to like me that I forget about liking her. Occasionally, I get fake feelings confused with real feelings. It hinders good friendships with girls who happen to be attractive, or limits things happening with people I actually like.

Everyone likes being liked, myself included. In the past, if someone remotely had interest, I convinced myself I was hardcore interested and would develop crazy feelings. Most of the time, this would lead to me acting differently, freezing up (I am already horribly awkward) and saying the wrong things or barely saying anything at all to try to play it cool. And if you don’t say anything, the girl isn’t going to know how much you actually like her. But then again, I didn’t even know, so it was just confusing. I have gotten better at being liked in recent years. When someone likes me, I don’t automatically reciprocate the feelings. I like the attention, but I try to see what they like about me and I think about what I like in them. Then I move forward accordingly. However, in even more recent times, this has backfired. I have such unnecessary self-worth at times that I don’t understand why multiple girls like me. So I just assume it is a mistake on their part, and I get somewhat distant and confused. I figure they don’t actually know me like they think, or they wouldn’t really want to date. So I don’t let myself like them. Maybe it is based on the good intentions of not wanting to hurt anyone based on my craziness and distance in life, but it hurts them and me. In order to get past this silly step, I just need to be confident and accepting that some girls out there like me for who I really am.

I think I have had a crush on almost every single one of my female friends. It makes for awkward situations, and usually doesn’t turn into dating. Only years later do I see what I actually liked at the time. I wish I could see what I really like right now. My moods and tastes change. I hurt girls in the process of pursuing or being pursued by them. If I were surer (I don’t like this word) of what I want, I would be more assertive in going for it. The girls I have dated, I have truly cared about. But the scary thing is, they were among the crowd of girls I didn’t like but who liked me. Did I give in? At the time, I didn’t believe so. Was it luck that they happened to turn into great relationships, at least for a time? Or was it destiny that they happened to end in a not so fun way, basically because of me still being that distant, crazy guy?

I want to be a perfect boyfriend and sometimes exhibit very loving qualities that a good boyfriend would have. But other times, I am independent and if there is something I see as detrimental to that independence, I put up my walls and become cold and spiteful, at least on the outside.

I have told plenty of girls to not like me because I will hurt them. But secretly, I also feel pain, and I don’t want to get hurt either. I just want to find someone who I like, who is pretty, who is fun, and who I will open up to and be comfortable with; I want to tear down any walls that I have built once and for all, and I want the girl to feel like she can do the same. Is that possible at this point in my life? I am not sure, but I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity when it arises.

I apologize to those I have hurt based on my distance, and know that I have cared more than you think. In the future, I don’t want that part of me to be the problem. It is not an acceptable trait in a relationship. I want to become a better, less distant person from what I have been. I think this will help to clear up most of my girl confusion, whether it be in the initial crush stage or the later relationship stage.

“G and G”

My grandparents came to visit me last weekend from Florida. Every time I see them, I want everything to be the way it used to be. I want them to move back into the house down the street in Springfield so I can see them every single day. I want to be the grandchild they adored. Looking at me with glowing eyes, straightening my little pumpkin Halloween costume and taking cute pictures. Picking me up for school and listening to me name all the makes and models of the cars on the road in amazement. “Hiding” the plastic Easter eggs (containing clues to find a few gifts around the house) in the back yard for my sister and I to find. Being at every single one of my sporting events, school functions, and big moments in my life. Going way out of their way to give me a ride no matter where I was. Buying me an absurdly unnecessary amount of snacks when my friends came over. Dealing with me being a rotten little brat in such a gentle way. Going shopping to buy every living school supply and seasonal article of clothing under the sun. Happily observing me type car names I observed on the typewriter that I saw during the day, like “Chevrolet” and “Mercedes” and “Caravan.” Going out to eat at a chain restaurant around 11:30 every weekday.

I did a ridiculous amount of puzzles and played so many games of Yahtzee with Grandma. I went on drives with Grandpa to really cool houses that he would appraise, and I would always get car sick because of his herky-jerky driving style.  I was so happy to get back from my vacations out west so I could fervently tell Grandma every detail I could remember. I used to go out to breakfast with Grandpa, drink a sip of his coffee, and have pancakes without syrup because he did not want to deal with the sticky mess (I never knew syrup was a possibility on pancakes until Grandma realized what he was doing and quickly put an end to it).

I know they won’t be here forever. I am horrible at this “being a grown-up” thing. I cannot express myself well like I used to. I am not loud and annoying and talkative and pouty and opinionated and judgmental and humorous and cute anymore. I don’t know how to talk about adult things. I am still a child, but have found myself in this adult life. I will get acclimated, and that will just take time. What worries me is that they don’t have much time; I want them to see me grow as a person. I have been a little lost and will be more of a late bloomer than some, but I want that blooming process to come as soon as possible. Even though I know my grandparents have and always will love me no matter what, I owe them something, after everything they have given me. I want to show them what I am made of. If I ever make a respectable amount of money when they are still around, I like to think I would pay them back for all the things they have ever paid for, to get rid of any guilt I might have for accepting such generosity and to let them know they mean more than that to me. Knowing them, they would not accept any of it. I might be able to buy them a dinner, but that’s about it. What would be a bigger payment to my grandparents would be for me to grow up and be the best person I can be. To use my mind effectively, to make an impact on the world like they know I can do. To be as loving and giving to others as they have been. To be an amazing grandson.

National Grandparents Day was September 9th, which I always seem to forget, but my grandparents deserve more than just a day. They deserve everything I could ever give. They have provided me with love and stability in every moment of my life, and I owe all of my past and future successes to them. I hope they are around when I have kids so they can be as great-grandparents what they are to me as grandparents: the best ever.